Knowing when to stand down is a crucial call. And in her first interview since announcing that that she intends to stay on as leader of the House Democrats, Pelosi told msnbc's Rachel Maddow on Thursday that she hopes the United States will withdraw troops from Afghanistan ahead of the end-of-2014 timeline targeted by the Obama administration.
National security should drive our decisions, Pelosi said.
In discussing the scandal around General David Petraeus, Maddow said the former CIA director did not appear to have committed a crime, and asked whether the FBI should tell Congress about findings that are not criminal in nature.
"I believe that the standard has to be, does this have an impact on our national security?" Pelosi replied. The former House Speaker insisted that it's still uncertain whether the general's personal transgressions did compromise security.
Asked whether bad behavior by the top brass might strengthen Americans' desire to withdraw from Afghanistan before the established deadline, Pelosi said: "Well, let's hope it's before then. Let's hope it's-- it's by then, but let's hope it is before then."
It's not clear that staying in Afghanistan is truly in America's interest, Pelosi said, warning against military pressure to maintain a residual security force beyond 2014.
"What is our mission-- how is it in our national security to stay the long time?" she said. "What I think we have to be vigilant about is that we're not staying any longer. And I know there's been some comments about, 'Well, we may keep a force.' I don't know there's any appetite for that."
General Dunford said at a hearing Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee that he would favor keeping a force in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Pelosi wasn't persuaded:
"I'm more interested in what the President of the United States has said, is that we will be out by the end of 2014. But it is unpopular. The country is weary of war," she said. "They want our troops to come home and they are coming home. But I don't know if there's a majority in the vote in Congress to bring the troops home on a faster schedule than the president has. And remember, the president said by 2014. So hopefully, it will be sooner."